Man accused in 2 Arkansas deaths found competent
CONWAY, Ark (AP) — A former Carson City emergency room doctor accused in a 2002 double slaying has been found mentally competent to stand trial in January for murder.Richard Conte, 62, was charged in 2011 with capital murder for the execution-style slayings of businessman Carter Elliott, 49, and Timothy Wayne Robertson, 25.Each of the men was shot in the head and were found dead in Elliott’s Conway home on Clear Creek Road on May 19, 2002.Arkansas Circuit Judge Charles E. Clawson Jr. ruled Monday that Conte, who has pleaded not guilty, can be tried starting Jan. 8. If convicted, Conte could face up to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors aren’t seeking the death penalty in the case. Clawson also set a Friday hearing to consider Conte’s request that he be released on his own recognizance because of speedy-trial rules.The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Jennifer Whitmore, a licensed psychologist at the State Hospital in Little Rock, interviewed Conte for about three hours for a mental-health evaluation as requested by Prosecutor Cody Hiland.Whitmore wrote in her report that Conte showed “the capacity to understand the proceedings … and the capacity to assist effectively in his own defense.” Whitmore also said she didn’t think Conte had a mental disease or defect at the time of the killings. “Information provided by the prosecuting attorney indicated that the perpetrator fled the scene and left minimal clues to his/her identity,” Whitmore wrote. “Descriptions of the murders indicated the perpetrator was able to engage in purposeful, goal-directed behaviors.”Whitmore said Hiland’s office and defense attorney Jack Lassiter “had no concerns about Dr. Conte’s legal fitness” to be tried.According to Whitmore, Conte uses a wheelchair because he has multiple sclerosis, which he said he has suffered from since 2000. Conte also is blind in his left eye and has poor vision in his right eye because of cataracts, she wrote.Conte was charged in Conway two days before he was to be released from a Nevada prison where he served nine years for kidnapping his ex-wife, Lark Gathright-Elliott, who was the former wife of Carter Elliott.Elliott had owned industrial solvent manufacturer Detco and was a mentor to Robertson. They were working together to build a deck for Elliott’s home in the Shady Valley subdivision in west Conway when they were killed.